Tuesday, 31 January 1984
Seanad Eireann Debate
Minister for Communications (Mr. J. Mitchell): I should like to express my appreciation to the House for facilitating the speedy passage of the Transport Bill late last year. On that occasion it was agreed that this debate should take place to allow Members an opportunity to express their views on CIE and, in particular, the finances of the company.
CIE in Ireland is synonymous with the many facets of inland public transport. It is a very large and extensive organisation with a staff of nearly 16,000. Its activities impact on most of the community every day through its passenger and freight services which are operated throughout the country. There is hardly a person in the country who has not something to say, either good or bad, about CIE and its services — a sure sign of the importance of CIE for the life and business of the country.
In an ideal situation CIE, like any commercial organisation, would finance its operations entirely through the revenue it receives from its customers. CIE, however, in common with public transport operators throughout the world, finds itself dependent for a substantial part of its revenues on the Exchequer.
Since I became the Minister responsible for transport in late 1982 I have spent a lot of time dealing with the financial difficulties of CIE. Senators will all recall that the Government showed clear determination from the beginning to come to grips with the very serious problems of the national finances. That, inevitably, involved facing up to the issues raised by the State's financial support for CIE. At that time CIE were forecasting a deficit for 1982 of some £109 million, or £13 million in excess of the State subvention of £96 million. For 1983, the most optimistic  estimate of the board's deficit was £93 million, without any provision for pay increases in 1983.
I could see no basis for such an optimistic forecast having regard to the trend of CIE's deficits over the previous 14 years or so. In 1968-69, for example, the board's deficit amounted to some £3.2 million. By 1982 that deficit had climbed to £109 million. This represented a sixfold increase in the deficit in real terms. That experience created the expectation of a deficit in the region of £120 million for 1983 as a real possibility. Indeed, before the end of the decade CIE's annual deficits, unless radical remedial action was taken, could have been approaching the £300 million mark.
An examination of the State finances by the new Government in late 1982 made it clear that there could be no question of additional subvention above the £86 million already provided for 1983. Indeed it was obvious that not alone for 1983 but for all future years there would have to be a much tighter control of CIE's subvention requirements. The Government's determined control of public expenditure combined with the shortfall in CIE's subvention for 1982 and that forecast for 1983 resulted in dire predictions about cuts in services, reductions in employment and consequent industrial relations problems.
The payment of subvention to CIE seemed to have given rise to a belief that virtually all of the loss-making services operated by the board were essential social services to be retained almost regardless of cost. On the other hand, any question of containing or reducing the level of CIE subvention brought fears of massive cuts in essential services. The dilemma for Government as well as for CIE was that there was no clear definition given the social elements in the role of public transport. In the past, therefore, efforts to control or contain CIE's subvention requirements had come to naught because of the difficulty of defining the precise scope and nature of the social element expected from public transport services.
In the past the most that Government  had seemed able to do to control CIE's deficit was to set subvention levels well below CIE's stated requirements. These reduced allocations reflected the fact that State resources available for this purpose were under considerable strain. That this policy was not effective is shown by the fact that CIE's deficits, since 1979, have always exceeded subvention. These excesses, amounting in total to some £36 million, are now being financed through short term borrowings by CIE. The Transport Act, 1983 increased the limit of the board's short term borrowing powers from £20 million to £40 million. This increase was necessary because of the £16.35 million shortfall between the board's 1983 subvention of £86 million and the board's projected outturn deficit of £102.35 million. Obviously then, setting CIE's annual subvention at levels far lower than can be realistically achieved by the board is counter-productive when excess deficits must be financed by short term borrowings. The interest charges on these borrowings in later years dilute the value of the annual subvention to CIE operations.
Clearly CIE's future from a financial point of view could not have been optimistic. I am convinced that the financial strains may have contributed to difficulties which seemed to diminish the effectiveness of the board's normal transport operations. CIE, for various reasons, had acquired an unenviable image of unreliability. That in turn contributed to the decline in the board's share of the transport markets. Inevitably in that situation costs are affected, revenues diminish and losses increase, and we come back full circle to the inexorable increases in deficits.
Shortly after I became Minister for Transport, I came to the conclusion that a narrow or a mere cosmetic solution would not solve the financial problems associated with CIE. I saw an urgent need for a radical approach that would provide a rapid and comprehensive impact on CIE's affairs. Such an approach would have to comprehend CIE's relations with Government and the need to control and reduce subvention requirements consistent with Government's policies. I could  see that a new approach, to be effective, would have to have a potential for influencing all levels in CIE to improve the performance of the company both operationally and financially.
Last June I announced a package of measures which embodied a series of fundamental changes in Government policy as regards CIE's finances and operations. These changes will, I believe, lead to a sustained improvement in our public transport system in the years immediately ahead. Under the new arrangements the Government have committed themselves to fund the social element of CIE's public transport services. This commitment has been quantified as the lesser of either 50 per cent of the board's revenue or 33? per cent of the board's expenditure.
Provision is made for the payment of the subvention, calculated on that basis, “above the line” so that it will now appear in the CIE accounts as revenue earned for services rendered. Putting the subvention “above the line” is Government's clear acknowledgement of their responsibility to ensure the provision of essential public transport services, which in normal commercial terms would be loss-making. In quantifying that commitment as a proportion of the board's operating finances Government are providing CIE with an incentive not only to improve its performance generally but also to review the basis on which particular services are provided. Decisions on what is or is not an essential public transport service remain a matter for the board within the context of the subvention arrangements.
The formula for calculating the subvention alone would not necessarily halt the upward trend in CIE's deficit. To cover this point the Government directed that CIE's expenditure should be reduced by 12 per cent in real terms over a five year period starting this year. Expenditure in 1983, with an adjustment for inflation was used as the basis of calculating the expenditure limit for 1984. This gave a potential expenditure of £316 million for this year. Within these subvention parameters, which are designed to encourage and control, the Government have confirmed that CIE has the  freedom in relation to its operations and must now act in a more commercial manner. CIE will now be in a situation of having the potential to make profits on its operations and I look forward to such a development. Profits of this nature could, for example, be used to defray borrowings by the board or to finance capital expenditure.
There can be no certainty of profits under the new arrangements. However, I must make it quite clear that the Government, having defined their commitment to the social element of CIE's services, will not be prepared to advance further subvention simply to meet any new losses. It will be a matter for the board to take whatever action is necessary to eliminate such loss making possibilities.
As part of the package of measures which I announced last June, the Government amplified the board's statutory mandate to ensure that a new, positive and aggressively commercial ethos developed within the company.
The efficacy of the new approach, which is now fully operational is, I believe, already showing signs of results reflected in the 1983 outturn for CIE. As I said earlier, on the basis of the historic trends a 1983 deficit in the region of £120 million could have been expected from CIE. However, in the event the board expect to record a deficit of some £102.35 million for the year.
The board's expenditure for the year was £300 million approximately as against revenue of £198 million. This is highly creditable particularly when compared to the deficit of £109 million for 1982. This reduction of nearly £7 million in CIEs deficit amounts to a reduction of 15 per cent in real terms in one year and is the first time in 15 years that any reduction has been achieved and has been achieved without any massive cuts in services or job losses.
The trend of increasing deficits has been broken. I congratulate and commend CIE for this achievement and express the hope that the 1984 results, with the full impact of the new arrangements, will continue that pattern. I sincerely hope Senators will join me in congratulating  CIE because I fervently believe that a significant proportion of CIE's bad performances in the past few years are due to the continued criticism which is made of them by many people. Indeed, I fall into that trap myself. It is important to give credit where credit is due and applaud them where applause is due.
Under the new system a subvention provision of £104 million has been allocated for 1984 to CIE. This £104 million is the Government's commitment to the social element of CIE's services for 1984. It is also the limit of such commitments. Losses incurred on the board's services will not be underwritten by the Government either by way of extra subvention or by permitting additional short term borrowing. If necessary, economy measures may have to be taken within CIE to live within their resources. We hope that will not involve any undesirable elements such as loss of jobs. That is something that I, the Government or any Member of this House would not welcome. There can be no long term future for public transport in Ireland other than by keeping CIE's dependence on the Exchequer within the limits that the community can afford. That means strict adherence by CIE to a deficit limit of £104 million in 1984.
I would now like to turn to the capital expenditure side of CIE's activities. As Members of the House are aware the Transport Act, 1983 extended the limit on CIE capital borrowings from £180 million to £230 million. It provided a similar limit on State guarantees for such borrowing.
In recent years CIE has been engaged in a heavy programme of capital expenditure. The principal features of this programme include the electrification of the Howth-Bray line, the ongoing renewal of the CIE bus fleet and the acquisition of 124 new carriages for the board's mainline rail services. Since 1981 CIE's capital  expenditure programme has been running at a rate of approximately £60 million annually. The board's yearly depreciation provisions have been in the order of £15 million to £20 million. The difference between programmed expenditure and depreciation provisions has been and is made up each year by long term borrowing.
The major element of the board's capital borrowing during the period is accounted for by the Howth-Bray electrification project. When the system comes into operation later this year it will account for nearly £113 million of CIE's long term borrowings including loans from the European Investment Bank. The capital allocation for 1984 is £21.3 million.
There has been a good deal of comment — much of it misinformed — and controversy about this project in recent months. The fact that, in its early years at least, the scheme will not, in strict financial terms, pay for itself is one of the criticisms. I am glad of this opportunity to set the record straight, even if I am unable to remove all doubts about the financial wisdom of this project.
The Howth-Bray electrification scheme was submitted to my Department by CIE in 1977. At the time passenger carryings had been showing an upward trend and there was clear and growing evidence of demand for commuter services on the line. Much of the equipment then in use had reached the end of its useful life and was in urgent need of replacement or refurbishment. The electrification proposal was the first stage in the proposals recommended in the Dublin Rail Rapid Transit Study in 1975. Briefly that study recommended the provision of an electrified rapid rail transit system for the Dublin area. The system recommended included provision for the incorporation of existing commuter rail links, an underground network in central Dublin and links to the new towns such as Tallaght, Clondalkin and Blanchardstown.
In submitting their proposals for Howth-Bray CIE did so on the basis that the scheme would be financed by grant capital. This in fact is the basis on which  the scheme was first approved in 1979 at a then estimated cost of £46.4 million, March-April 1979 prices. However, within a matter of weeks the Government of the day in July 1979 decided, in effect, that the project should be financed by loan capital.
The decision to fund the Howth-Bray scheme on the basis of loans rather than grant finance is of fundamental importance. The DRRTS recognised that the financial appraisal was sensitive to accounting assumptions. Furthermore, the study indicated that less reliance could be placed on the results of the financial appraisal than on the results of the cost benefit analysis. This factor assumed greater significance in the light of the decision to fund the project entirely by loan finance and, of course, in the light of the prevailing high interest rates. Senators may get some appreciation of this aspect from the fact that of the £113 million capital cost of the project nearly £27 million is capitalised interest charges, whilst the remaining £86 million represents the original capital cost adjusted by inflation for the intervening years. No provision was included in the original project cost of £46.4 million approved by the Government of the day, for the roll up of interest charges during the construction phase.
The new system is projected to carry 81,000 passengers per day in 1987. However, even if this level is achieved there will still be substantially increased operating losses on the line. In current prices total losses on the line will, it is projected, amount to some £20 million per annum. Most of this loss, will be attributable to the ongoing interest charges on the borrowings of £113 million.
I would not wish my remarks to be taken as indicating a definitive view either of mine or the Government on the proposals in the Dublin Rail Rapid Transit Study. However, I must make it clear that all future projects, whether for transport or otherwise, must have regard to the full financial and social implications involved. As I said on another occasion, I would not be prepared to seek  Government approval for a project of this nature put forward in the same way as the Howth-Bray project.
I have dealt with the financial aspect at some length because I want to make it clear that I am not opposed to necessary and essential improvements in our transportation systems even if grant financed. I must also make it clear that in future such projects will be undertaken only where they can be clearly shown to be the most cost effective solutions and taking account of all relevant economic and social factors.
Apart from the rather daunting financial features thare are many attractive aspects to the Howth-Bray scheme. Day long services operating at five-minute intervals in the peak and at 15 minute intervals in off-peak are envisaged. The new rolling stock will give a substantial improvement on the existing service in terms of comfort, efficiency and cleanliness. Twenty five stations will be served some of which will serve as interchange points for a feeder bus network designed to enhance the line's natural catchment area.
Turning to the other parts of the board's capital investment programme I must mention the new carriage building programme at Inchicore. The new units consist of 94 standard carriages, 15 catering cars and 15 generator vans. The present estimated cost of the project which will be completed by 1988 is £52.4 million. To the end of 1983 some £7 million had been spent on it. The allocation for 1984 is £14 million. Using the new carriages CIE will be able to improve considerably mainline rail facilities to an acceptable standard of comfort and convenience. CIE expect that the first carriages will be put in service around the middle of this year. Senators will have noted today's Irish Times article by Conor Cruise-O'Brien.
The renewal of the board's bus fleet is also continuing. Bus deliveries which commenced from the Shannon factory in 1981 are continuing. The capital allocation for bus building and ancillary activities in 1984 is £16 million, which is expected to provide a further 120 buses. Up to the end of 1983 some 470 buses  had been provided at a cost of £68 million.
Naturally, with an investment of this level Government has been concerned about the relationship between CIE and its Shannon supplier. For that reason the Government commissioned a firm of consultants to undertake a study of the matter.
At present, bus manufacture continues under interim arrangements, with GAC — the General Automotive Corporation — the present operators of the plant at Shannon. CIE is negotiating a new contract and I am awaiting proposals in this respect so that they can be considered by the Government in conjunction with the consultant's report.
Apart from the major projects I have mentioned CIE is engaged in continuing programmes of renewal and maintenance of various other facilities including the board's signalling and communications network. This year the board's capital allocation for signalling and communications projects amounts to £4.5 million. These items generally tend to be financed from the board's depreciation provisions. The balance of the board's capital allocation of £57 million for 1984 is made up of £1.2 million for capital borrowing repayments and the board's general programme.
The package of proposals which I announced last June also dealt with the capital side of CIE's activities. It provided for the setting up of a permanent capital committee to appraise and monitor CIE's capital expenditure. This is, of course, consistent with the Government's determination to ensure that henceforth all public investment proposals will be fully justified having regard to the need to manage our scarce capital resources.
This committee, on which there are representatives of my Department, the Department of Finance and CIE, are now meeting regularly. Among the items being dealt with is the question of improved transport for Tallaght, in respect of which CIE submitted proposals for a rapid rail link, though the board have decided to defer this for the moment. There is undoubtedly room for  considerable improvement in Tallaght's transport facilities and in other areas. The Government will, however, have to be fully satisfied that any proposals put forward will effectively meet a defined need at the least cost that we, as a community, can afford.
I believe that the decisions in relation to CIE's finances taken by the Government last year are a good basis on which public transport can be developed in future years. We believe that they will eliminate the old demoralised loss-making image of CIE. We have sought to create a vibrant and thrusting businesslike organisation that will get out into the market place to sell an increasingly attractive product that will become a by-word for efficiency and reliability.
I have referred to the improved financial performance in 1983 as against 1982. There is also the fact that the decline in passenger numbers in the Dublin city bus services seems to have been halted and I hope that the trend will be a steady increase in bus passenger numbers. This is a challenge for CIE.
One area in particular in which substantial improvement is required is in the board's industrial relations. In 1983 there were nearly 50,000 working days lost in CIE due to industrial disputes. This means that on average every CIE employee was on strike for nearly three days in 1983. This is nearly ten times the national average for working days lost by employees in 1983 and, of course, the figure is even worse when the whole labour force is taken into account. This type of performance is doing untold damage not only to CIE but to the community which it is meant to serve. I apportion no blame for this dismal performance. Board, management and staff must share that responsibility equally. Now that the Government have taken the necessary steps to require CIE to operate on a more commercial basis we should more quickly see the results and the damage of interruptions to transport services.
The future for public transport services is good. I have no doubt that public transport, with vastly improved industrial relations, reduced absenteeism and reliable services could quickly recapture  much of the markets which it has lost over the last decade or so and attract new business.
During the past 12 months, I have given considerable time to the study of the McKinsey Report. I want to make clear, however, that this report is not a panacea for all CIE's ills. It presents options on which choices must be made. I have also taken account of the views expressed by interested parties and I have deferred the presentation of my proposals to Government until the new full-time chairman has had an opportunity to examine the report and give me his observations. This completed, I will submit my proposals speedily to the Government.
I have explained to the House the main developments in relation to CIE during the past year, the motivations for the Government decisions in relation to that body and the work that is in progress in the capital area for improving the facilities for the travelling public. I have also touched on such matters as the quality of services, the importance of good industrial relations, the role of the staff of CIE and the future of the transport operations involved.
There is much good in CIE. The public, however, is very slow, to praise the board and its employees for the good things they do. Many confine their powers of recall as regards CIE to the strike, the bus that is late or the train which is delayed. I believe that the decisions in relation to CIE must have a positive influence on the organisation and I am very optimistic for the future. My hope is that success is around the corner. CIE now has the equipment, the staff and the potential markets for greater success.
Professor Hillery: CIE are being subsidised by the State, that is the taxpayer, to the tune of over £100 million per year. The Minister has underlined graphically the gravity of the financial situation. Clearly the situation is no longer tolerable, though the trend of the increasing  financial deficit has been broken, and this is certainly welcomed. Change is obviously needed now and the question is what form that change should take.
I will leave it to later speakers to comment on the Minister's latest proposals: I will concentrate on the invitation the Minister has extended to cover aspects of CIE's activities that are not necessarily covered in his opening statement. What I want to advocate and develop somewhat is the gradual privatisation of passenger and freight road transport. The problem with CIE, of course, is that the laws and framework for transport in this country are designed for an era when railways formed the basis for our transport system.
That era has long since passed and the reality today is that CIE have a very small share of the total market for both passenger and freight services. Privately owned road transport, as we can all observe, has now grown to such an extent that rail-based CIE transport is in an increasingly serious financial position. Continuation of the present heavy subsidies will mean a serious drain on the taxpayer, an increasingly unacceptable service to business people and a bigger share of the market to private vehicles. With the obvious shortage of State money it just does not make sense to be pumping more than £100 million per year into CIE. There have been numerous inquiries and reports on CIE but very little by way of follow-up. What is needed is not more reports but decisions and actions right now.
As I mentioned a moment ago, I want to concentrate on and develop somewhat the option of the gradual privatisation of CIE's passenger and freight road transport. If these services were put into private hands competition would follow. This would be a healthy change and should lead to improved efficiency. Private ownership of the services would have a favourable effect on two critical factors, namely, prices and service. There is clear evidence available that privately run freight and passenger services at present are able to offer lower prices than CIE. There is no doubt that there is scope for reductions in transport prices.
 On this theme of privatisation, at present a substantial number of school buses are in private hands. CIE's school bus fleet will soon become obsolete and will have to be replaced. Replacement of the fleet will likely cost up to £50 million. I want to pose the question why not use this opportunity to hand over the school bus system to private enterprise and save CIE and therefore the taxpayer millions of pounds? The Joint Oireachtas Committee on State-Sponsored Bodies, which examined and reported on CIE five years ago had the following to say:
that it would be right for the unions concerned to accept the Labour Court recommendations on the use of school buses for other purposes, so that private drivers can use them part-time for private hire;
that unless this is done the Government should adopt a general policy of transferring school services to the private sector where there is an operator wishing to provide such a service and where established needs are not being met.
More generally on the theme of privatisation, the competition which would follow privately-owned services would lead, I believe, to better service. I agree with the Minister that where credit is due to CIE it should be given, but I think equally where criticisms are valid and justified they should be made. At present CIE bus services are built around a standard vehicle type rather than catering for local demands. Several reports on CIE have called for more flexibility on bus types to meet local demands, particularly in rural areas. We have the crazy situation at present when almost empty 54-seater buses are travelling around rural areas in the west where, of course, mini-buses would make far better economic sense. Privatisation would mean that the right vehicles for the right places would be used, with more flexible deployment of labour.
 Again on the question of service, there are indications that job satisfaction and morale are lacking among CIE employees. As far as Dublin city buses are concerned one cannot help getting the impression that the busmen are not really interested in business. At times they seem to avoid picking up passengers. Private operators could not afford such a luxury. I suggest that privatisation would provide a new deal for transport. It would lead to a more efficient and cheaper service and the bigger market share that would follow upon a more efficient and cheaper service would mean that jobs would not be in doubt.
Given the background of a shortage of State funds, several countries abroad are moving towards privatisation of public transport. Germany and the Netherlands readily come to mind in this respect. As I mentioned already, competition would follow private ownership of transport. This would mean that competitors would be kept on their toes. It also would mean that these competitors would have an intimate knowledge of the markets which they serve and, importantly, it would mean that administrative costs would be saved because large bureaucracies would be avoided.
My comments up to now have been related to freight and passenger road transport. The railways quite clearly present a particular problem because they continue to show substantial losses and this is where the social element especially comes in. I would not support closure of the rail system. To do so would be a really drastic step. Keeping the rail system open, however, requires radical steps in turn. A thorough examination of local needs, new methods and so on, followed by action, will be required in respect of the rail system.
In conclusion, in regard to the main point I want to make, namely, the benefits of the privatisation of passenger and freight road transport, I believe that the consequental competition in the privatisation context would lead to reduced administrative costs and lower prices, together with more efficiency generally with the increased market share enabling jobs to be preserved.
Mr. FitzGerald: I am very glad of the opportunity to speak here today in relation to the affairs of CIE. As the Minister indicated at the beginning, there was an opportunity to deal with the Transport Bill shortly before Christmas, but the arrangement then was that we would have a lot more time later to go into the area of CIE.
I should like first of all to congratulate the Minister after a year in office on coming not just to this but to the other House with very encouraging news in relation to the affairs of CIE. For the first time in 15 years we have a reduction in the deficit that that company faces. One hopes that in the course of the period ahead steps will be taken to identify the areas of loss facing that company, first of all to identify them in relation to the social content of the service and to have that underlined by way of a particular formula and to come up with a reduction of 12 per cent in real terms over the next five years in relation to the subvention and, furthermore, to get ahead to establish what is, of course, most important of all relating to the affairs of any State company, that is, the formation of a capital committee between the Departments of Finance and Communications and CIE in relation to future capital projects. These are all important. The whole area of capital projects is the one where companies like this either sink or swim. We have to have the right blend, and I am glad to see the part of the Minister's statement relating to continuing development of CIE. We have also to be prudent in relation to schemes that are envisaged and approved in relation to the development of CIE.
The Howth-Bray line came up for a great deal of comment from the Minister in his opening statement. I am one of those people who believe that the levels of criticism of and demoralisation in CIE perhaps could be stemmed to some extent and given a much more positive air by the development of this facility. It will be interesting to know whether the use of that line by 80,000 per day will come on stream by 1987. It seems to me that this is the kind of thing that CIE as  a service, CIE as a staff and CIE as a company, have been looking for — something along the lines of the most modern rail link available within Europe and certainly the first of its type to be developed in this country; the electrification of an important commuter line centred in Dublin connecting the north and south sides.
I know that when the DRRTS Report was made they envisaged a much more developed system than this project. This project will cost the company in the order of an additional £20 million in terms of deficit over the next number of years. They may well reach their target in usage and it may well be that it will give the necessary stimulus to the staff and to the general public in an area of the country where unfortunately there has been a greater growing trend of people moving to Dublin than elsewhere and therefore the country at large will be using this service to the centre of our city. It may well be that in that area it will have the right effect on the company. CIE require that stimulus and that feeling of optimism. I hope it will affect the staff and future thinking in relation to the way in which the public attitude has changed and the way the staff will respond.
In the last 20 or 30 years CIE have had a very tough and unfortunate experience. We reduced the number of rail routes from what they were in the forties by about 40 per cent — there was a 40 per cent reduction in route lines up to the mid-forties or thereabouts. CIE at present, I understand, are running a deficit which is mainly attributable to the rail service. Two-thirds of CIE services showing a deficit are in the area of the rail provision.
It seems to me to be an extraordinary fact — and I would be interested to hear the comments of the Minister in due course — that we do not seem either as a company or as a country to have looked at the area of freight in the manner in which it should be looked at. Senator Hillery spoke about the privatisation of certain aspects of the CIE services and particularly the freight end of it. Leaving aside how we do it, we seem to have  managed in the last 20 years to allow the CIE operation to develop to a stage when a very large proportion of our freight is carried on our road system. It is not alone carried by the TNTs and DHLs and Purolators of this world, large commercial concerns which have come from abroad, but it is carried in vans and in articulated trucks and on a road system that certainly is not built up sufficiently to carry all this freight. It is one of the major contributors to the cause of accidents here.
The extent to which the rail has not provided itself with the necessary modernisation, with the rolling stock that is necessary, with the mechanised freight handling that is required at terminals, with the development of terminals in major centres throughout the country, seems to be a major fault in the policy thinking of CIE in the last 20 years. We have solely concerned ourselves with the passenger rail transport area and little with the element of what the rail can do in relation to providing for freight. There is a necessity for us to get together on the road and rail fronts. There has been an absence of any apparent move from the Department of the Environment to sit down to consider this. We have had demand in the city of Dublin and maybe if it was tried on a pilot basis we might have some reason for believing that a future would be there in relation to some attempt to get together the various forces involved in transport.
It seems to be ludicrous that the Department of the Environment and the local authorities who are concerned with the provision of roads have had no connection whatsoever with the major public transport company, CIE, other than a purely consultative one, though that is to be welcomed. I hope that in the future we can move to a stage when there will be much more than consultation, when there will be an attempt to look at the level of spending in these areas and to spend money in the right way, which would not just encourage CIE, particularly in the direction of the development of the rail services for freight, but encourage them to give to the private sector a  headline in competitive service through efficiency and give to the public sector, and CIE, the type of free hand in relation to the affairs of the company which the Minister indicated today. This is a most welcome development.
Over the years CIE have been stopped to a very large extent from moving into areas of commercial gain. This has done the company great harm because other commercial concerns based here and abroad have taken up the task and have been very successful. I do not need to mention the advent of the McGinley buses and other concerns of that type around the country who provide a service of a kind that CIE are not able to provide. I would hope that in the future perhaps we will have a much more level-headed competitiveness. The result will be encouraging in relation to the community, the taxpayer, and the taxpayers ultimately are the end of the market we are here to protect as Members of this and the other House.
I noticed in the course of the Minister's contribution that a close look is being taken at the Tallaght connection. There is a great importance, as Members of this House will realise, in the greater Dublin area to connect the largest new town development in Dublin to the city centre. I do not know whether it will be a rail or bus link. I do not know what the thinking of the Department of Communications is in relation to providing buses on routes like the Tallaght one and the Harcourt Street line, which to me is of particular interest. That connection which has of the order of five miles of line lying idle, if it is not to be used as the bus lane that is provided for by the Minister or by the development plan of the city and by the reservation that is intended by CIE for a bus lane for quite some time, could be used environmentally. It could be opened up as a part in sections, particularly the stations along the route, as an amenity to the area adjoining it. This is a matter of local concern which interests me.
If we are going into an area of doubt in relation to what is going to be developed in Tallaght, perhaps we could get some indication from the Minister as to the type of timetable that is involved in a  service that would not get the same priority but where other benefits could be afforded to the community rather than putting it in mothballs for a long period, which does not seem to indicate any concern for those who are involved. I realise that the Minister is to receive a deputation in relation to this line from Dublin County Council and Dublin Corporation in the near future. I am sure at that stage we will get the same kind of positive attitude to that line that he has certainly given in relation to the general commitment by him and by the Government to solve the major problems affecting CIE. I will end on that note and hope that in the course of his reply the Minister will be able to answer some of the questions I have raised today.
Mr. Fitzsimons: The Minister has given us a very comprehensive and rather optimistic picture in his very full introductory speech. I want to start my brief contribution by wishing the new chairman of CIE, Mr. Paul Conlon, success in his very difficult task. I understand from the publicity he received that his priority will be to restore confidence in CIE — which, of course, is most important — and also to deal with the area of industrial relations which the Minister has dealt with. He will be giving close examination to the 1980 McKinsey Report recommendations. I assume that he will not be confining his examinations completely to the McKinsey Report.
The activities of CIE affect practically every citizen in the State. We have all at one time or another depended on transport by CIE. We have experiences of different kinds, good and bad. CIE have a major social role to play and in the areas of low population, as has been pointed out on many occasions, the big problem arises. I understand that recommendations will be drawn up in the near future to be placed before the Government regarding private bus operators. They will have to compete on equal terms, including standards of efficiency, comfort and also remuneration. I believe that the unions will have a very important role to play in this area. I believe that a shuttle taxi service has commenced in  Dublin, from Finglas, according to reports, at £1 per person or 40p per person dearer than CIE when four people are conveyed by taxi. I wonder what effect this will have on CIE, if any?
CIE over-ran their expenditure by a considerable amount last year, over £100 million. This was due to the increased cost of fuel, wage increases and the follow-on impact of some of the measures in last year's budget. The losses last year, I believe, were £102.35 million. I read in the Sunday Tribune of 3 July 1983 that CIE deficits from 1969 were as follows: 1968-69, £2.1 million, 1969-70, £3.4 million, 1970-71, £6.3 million, 1971-72, £6.5 million, 1972-73, £8.1 million, 1973-74, £11 million, 1974, £14 million, 1975, £27.3 million, 1976, £31.5 million, 1977, £33.3 million, 1978, £37.6 million, 1979, £57.5 million, 1980, £73 million, 1981, £93.4 million, 1982, £108 million and 1983, £102.35 million.
It is obvious that this momentum must be reduced drastically from the taxpayers' point of view. There will be the alternative of closing down uneconomic areas. I am concerned that this will not affect low population areas. CIE workers have taken the brunt of the blame over the years, and perhaps rightly so in some instances, but overall it could be said that the reasons should be identified and if they were properly identified the workers would not necessarily have to take so much of the blame.
I welcome the change in the system of subvention to the formula where the Government will put in £1 for every £2 earned in revenue by CIE, or £1 for every £3 spent by CIE, whichever is the lesser. There are safeguards included in the scheme as well to prevent greater expenditure because, as we all know, extension of borrowing powers does not deal with the underlying problems. It is a very difficult task to reduce expenditure and improve the service. One might also say it is an impossible task. My main concern is that the service will not suffer.
Senator Hillery suggested that perhaps smaller buses in some instances would reduce the operating costs. It seems impossible to reconcile reducing costs with empty or half empty buses, which  we see in many cases. Smaller buses could be usefully employed in many areas.
I spoke here before on day tours with particular reference to my own town of Kells. Perhaps the same would apply generally at least to towns the same distance from Dublin or maybe a little further away. Kells does not benefit from CIE day tours in the summer time. They come as far as Navan and Slane. In Kells we have a lot to offer. It is a very historic town. There is a fine hotel and a great golf course as well as many facilities that would appeal to tourists. There are the Celtic crosses and the ancient monuments, for example, St Columb's Oratory and the Round Tower. We feel that the day tours should extend as far as our town. We have discussed some matters with CIE officials. They came to our meeting and we found them very helpful. Perhaps the Minister would consider this aspect and have the day tours extended to Kells.
With regard to the buses in the Dublin area, in particular, in some cases the delays are far too long. On a few occasions I brought people from Blanchardstown into the city and they informed me that there was a very long wait in the morning for a bus. This is not conducive to better usage of the buses by people who have to get to work in time. I recall that sometime ago there was a discussion about having buses only for commuting within the city area. This idea seems to have been more or less abandoned. I wonder if the Minister could tell us if this is under consideration. I tried to get the annual reports of CIE. Apparently the last one available in the Library is the 1979 report. It would be helpful if we had more up to date reports. Are the later reports available?
The Minister stated that there is hardly a person in the country who has not something to say, either good or bad, about CIE. Unfortunately, we know that generally speaking what most people have to say is bad. I hope CIE will change all that in the near future. The package which the Minister has prepared should result in a drastic improvement. He said he was funding the social element of CIE's public  transport services. Has this social element been identified scientifically? I would like to have some details of the method of identifying this social content. I welcome the decision by the Government to direct CIE to reduce expenditure by 12 per cent in real terms over a five year period but I hope that this will not result in a lowering of the service.
The trend of deficits has changed. There is a reduction this time of £7 million which amounts to a reduction of 50 per cent in real terms for the first time in 15 years. I join with the Minister in congratulating CIE. As he says, we should give credit where credit is due. I agree with the Minister when he said elsewhere that the cost of private motoring in Ireland is high. This should give CIE an opportunity to get many more customers. I sincerely hope that CIE in the near future will be able to do this and retain this downward trend in their deficits.
Mr. Ferris: I wish to join with the other Members in thanking the Minister for coming here to respond to the motion and to allow for a full discussion on the funding and role of CIE. There has been a lot of doubt in the past about what the role of CIE should be. Many people understood the role of CIE was to provide some kind of transport facilities for people in Dublin and throughout the country and also to provide a commercial freight service and to ignore what significance that might have both on the Exchequer, the borrowings and the capital allocations that any Government would make at any given time to the board of CIE to run their service. Until quite recently, when the whole role of CIE was properly defined by the Government, I am afraid this service was provided willy-nilly throughout the country. The closure of lines and the withdrawal of services took place without adequate realisation of the importance of specific rail links throughout the country.
I can immediately think of the Leas-Chathaoirleach's area in Clare where we lost that magnificent rail link, the old West Clare railway. It was a tragedy to lose that railway then. What a boon it would be nowadays to have it as a tourist  attraction and a way of seeing that beautiful county in comfort and with a nostalgia that has been written and sung about it. It would also be important for canvassing in the county which can be quite difficult by road.
CIE in the past had a policy, at board level in particular, that if they deliberately set about withdrawing a service they succeeded because they made that service appear on paper to be uneconomic and on that basis those of us who used the service would realise that because the service was not being provided in a proper fashion and in a proper way, people would not use it. Of course, the figures can then be produced that any service in any particular area is uneconomic.
I have a file on a service associated with CIE and I intend to deal with some aspects of it. We are paying a compliment to CIE today because 1983 was a good year for them. This was because of the specific funding that was set aside to fulfil the different roles the Government feel they have. In the preparation of the case for complimenting CIE the role of the worker-directors cannot be overstated. They have made a tremendous input into the board of CIE; they have laid the emphasis, particularly, on the social aspect of the service, on the importance for the commuting public to get to work and they have not lost sight of their responsibilities as board members to ensure that the service that they provide is an efficient one.
I made many cases to the previous chairman of CIE, Dr. Liam St. John Devlin. I would like to put on the record what he said in one of his communications to me. Many of us have been guilty of expressing points of view about CIE, the service and lack of service they give from time to time. He reminded me that:
It has been my experience that when CIE is being criticised for its losses, rarely are we defended by any public representatives for the social nature of many of our services. Each day I receive requests for an extension of these services and the provision of new services, and because of the limitation  of resources it is not always possible to accede to these requests. What is needed is a recognition of the fact that public transport is not a profit making enterprise. It can never be if priority is to be given to the provision of regular scheduled services of a social nature when the revenue earned is often considerably less than the costs incurred.
Those are the words of Dr. Liam St. John Devlin and they are the words of many of the worker representatives on the board of CIE. I am pleased that the Government for the first time have seen the importance of the social aspect of the service.
The Minister said today that during the year, having considered the never ending demands being made by CIE, regard would have to be had by the board, the Government and all of us as taxpayers to the social element of the public transport services. The commitment has now been qualified and quantified in the allocations being made by the Department to ensure that the lesser of either 50 per cent of the board's revenue or 33½ per cent of the board's expenditure is designated for that specific responsibility. The results arising from that decision are contained in the Minister's speech and are the source of our congratulations to the board for having achieved what we hoped they would achieve now that they know there is an element of social activity and also an element of competitiveness in the provision of not alone a transport service but the transportation of goods and agricultural produce throughout the whole region.
The Minister's speech dealt quite a lot with the problems in and around the city of Dublin. He referred in particular to the controversial Howth-Bray rail electrification scheme. I would like to remind the Minister that CIE means an awful lot more than just a service to the people of Dublin. It is a very important service to the people of the country. Many of them avail of it where the service is adequate and satisfactory and where the schedule times fit into normal business times or the leisure and shopping times of people in the country. We would not want to over-emphasise the importance of CIE  just to Dublin, where I know it is vital. When one-third of the population reside in Dublin a city transport is vital for them for going to work and so on. It is also essential for old age pensioners. This also applies throughout the country.
It is in the country that the greatest loss and decimation of the services have taken place over the years. I know and the Leas-Chathaoirleach knows about the number of rail lines closed, the removal of rail tracks, the closure of stations, the loss of jobs, all so important to the infrastructure especially in the south-east region which extends right across from the coast of Clare to the coast of Wexford. The social aspect of the service is very important. The alternatives proposed by the board of CIE would create such a demand on the local authority system, which has been referred to by Senator FitzGerald and the demand would be so great that we could not match it at local authority level with the present funding system we have for local authorities.
I do not want the Minister to be completely overcome by his perusal of the McKinsey Report. My party have the gravest reservations about the implementation of the McKinsey Report. We have reservations about its implementation in full and would like the fullest consideration to be given to the case that will be made both by my party as a political unit and as part of the Government and by the trade union movement about whom a lot of criticism has been made in contributions in the Houses of the Oireachtas, in county councils and so on. They seem to blame workers for all the problems in CIE. In the debate on the Transport Bill before Christmas — a reference was made to this by the Minister today, when he said he does not appropriate blame to any particular area — I said that not all the blame can be placed on the workers in CIE as there are a lot of management problems. The Minister and the new chairman of CIE will find that there is a tremendous willingness by the trade union movement to rejuvenate CIE and put them back in their rightful place as a very important social contribution  to the life of the countryside in particular. I know that spirit of willingness is there, having listened to representatives of the workers on deputations and to worker-directors on the board during many of the consultations I have had with them, particularly regarding the CIE line in the south-east region.
I would like to compliment the Minister on his intervention with the board of CIE when the closure of the rail link servicing Limerick Junction and Rosslare Harbour was imminent. The Minister requested them not to proceed until the fullest possible investigation of that service was carried out. That followed along a line developed by a previous Minister, Deputy Tom Fitzpatrick, the present Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil. When he was Minister in 1977 he reiterated the decision that that line would not close. Many discussions have taken place in both Houses of the Oireachtas about this line. It is important when we are discussing CIE funding and services that I should put on the record the importance of this line since it was first under threat by the board of CIE in 1977 and possibly before that. Deputy Wilson, who was the previous Minister for the Department, stated in response to a request from us that under the provisions of the Transport Act the question of the future of any service on this line, or indeed any other line, was a matter for determination by the board of CIE and in the circumstances the Minister considered that no useful purpose could be served in receiving deputations from anybody about particular services. This is the reason I say to the Minister on the motion before the House that in the areas where there is a social significance he has a responsibility to meet us as Oireachtas Members to discuss the aspects involving particularly the social service and to communicate our views to the board of CIE who are dependent on us for quite a substantial subvention from the taxpayers' funds each year. We want to ensure that all aspects of any line are taken into consideration.
We also welcome the fact that in the allocations for 1984 the grant-in-aid to  CIE has been increased by 21 per cent up to £104 million from £86 million in 1983. We welcome also the grants for bus priority, for urban traffic control of £400,000, and £100,000 for the Dublin Transport Authority.
I hope, in view of the Minister's statement, that the board will realise that we have a commitment to the continuation of the service. I am not too sure that the private sector can readily or easily provide a service that is any way comparable to the service that CIE provide. It is so easy to decide to run a bus to the seaside or to a football match for a day, but the provision of a social service of transport on a daily basis to and from various urban areas and throughout rural Ireland is something that only CIE can do. They are the efficient body to do it and with the sustenance of this House they will do that. I lay particular emphasis on the bus service. There are wonderful advertisements on television about how exotic a means of travel the Expressway service is but the problem about the express bus service is that it does not stop for the people in the rural areas. It does not stop for old age pensioners who are entitled to free transport, it just passes them by. They cannot believe that they have free transport because they have no facilities to avail of it.
I agree with the principle that it is important for a bus to get from one location to another, but only a moment's stop is required to take on an old age pensioner who needs to get to the nearest village or town. It is imperative that we have some service designed with that social aspect in mind so that the bus would not pass these people by when there is plenty of room on it. On some occasions only the driver and conductor are on the bus because they decide to leave the town on schedule when nobody else is leaving the town and arrive at the next town at an equally unimportant time.
This brings me back to the rail link from Rosslare Harbour to Limerick Junction. Rosslare Harbour is recognised as one of the greatest single ports of entry to this country for both people on car ferries and a huge amount of passenger  traffic. Passengers arrive at Rosslare Harbour and at certain times of the year there is no adequate service by rail for them. The only service provided all year round is a service to Waterford. Particularly at this time of year when we have numerous problems with sea transport and ferries arriving late, passengers after going through that trauma arrive in Waterford city and have to wait for bus links. Many of them are unable to get to Cork, Kerry, Limerick, west Clare, the west of Ireland or any other destination until a bus is scheduled to take them. The bus is designed to carry an average of 50 passengers but if a passenger travels as a tourist from England by boat and train to Waterford and the service is not continued by train he must unload all his baggage. Buses cannot carry the total baggage of 50 passengers. The train lies idle in Waterford station all day, usually ticking over to keep its engines and temperatures in order. The train tracks are still there and are idle at the times I am talking about. The stations the train passes through are still there and the gates must be opened because of other freight on the rail. Additional jobs are not involved because the drivers and others involved are still on the train. They wait hours in Waterford until the bus returns with people coming back to the boat, and there is the short rail link from Waterford to Rosslare Harbour. The amount of fuel used by a bus is one gallon per four miles to carry 50 passengers and part of their baggage. I am referring to the new Bombardier buses made in your constituency, a Leas-Chathaoirligh. The cost of fuel for a diesel train is the same, but a train can carry an unlimited number of passengers and up to 750 tonnes in total haulage.
It is imperative that the mainline track remains there not alone for the passenger service which I am making a case for but also for the whole infrastructure of the region — for agriculture, to service all the farmers in Wexford, to deliver their produce to the beet factory in Thurles which the Leas-Cheann Comhairle of the other House is so interested in. He has made a tremendous case for the retention of the service on that line as have all the other Oireachtas Members for all the  counties and I refer particularly to a committee of Oireachtas Members which we have set up. This is a pretty powerful committee because no party politics are involved in our commitment to that area.
I have discussed with retired members of CIE staff the continuation of this rail link and they cannot understand why the board at any time could possibly consider the closure of the line or the removal of the train passenger service. From the economics which I referred to there is no reason why this service could not continue to operate at a reduced cost and carry more people without discommoding them by changing from one system to another. I want to put on the record of the House that the driver on this service is asked not to average more than 27 miles per hour, including stops, so that the service on the line would not be seen to be competitive with alternative services. Apparently it is quite safe for a passenger train to travel at an average of 45 to 50 miles per hour, and to instruct drivers to drive at 27 miles per hour just to be non-competitive is surely asking for the closure of a service. In other words, since CIE took over the Great Southern rail link which was initiated in about 1890, the trains now take much more time to travel between Rosslare Harbour and Limerick Junction with fewer stops because all the small stations like Bansha and so on have been closed. I do not know if our EEC partners when we make cases for our EEC subvention would agree that that is the kind of efficient way we should be running a service.
Mr. Ferris: Exactly. If Percy was here now he would write a new song about the slow train from Rosslare Harbour to Limerick Junction. I have that information from an old driver who surely knows what he is talking about. I compliment him for having the courage to confide in me. The board of CIE must be made to realise that we know it is happening, that we want to ensure that it does not continue, and that any case  made for the retention of that service will be made on economic grounds. It should not be used by the board of CIE as a sort of additional lever to get further subvention. It is unfair to take a very sensitive line in which they know there is a great deal of political interest, so to speak, in order to get leeway with Ministers to increase subvention.
I have seen the figures that CIE have prepared in defence of their threat to close the line, and some of them would not stand up to examination even by school children. It is a pity that when they make a case for the closing of a line they cannot do it on the proper grounds rather than using emotive language. They talk about reducing the number of operatives, reducing maintenance on the line, the amount of diesel being used and the type of accommodation, when the line must still remain there and must be maintained because it provides a great service which cannot be dispensed with. It has the same number of operatives. The train driver is still there sitting in the cab in Waterford when he is not driving the train to Limerick Junction. All the maintenance on the main line itself is being carried out already, a large amount of money has been invested in it, and it is a pity if the board, in their wisdom, feel that there is any ground whatsoever for the closure of this link.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the Minister, the board of CIE and the new chairman, the case that is being prepared by all the county councils from Clare, Limerick, North and South Tipperary, Carlow, Waterford and Wexford, regional tourist organisation boards, regional and county development teams and all the county councils who would have an implication in this, that we cannot provide alternative road routes for these buses if they could replace the service adequately, and I doubt it. I hope that when that line is being reviewed an opportunity will be given to us to prove that it is an effective and economical route and that we will look for the proper services to be provided on it.
I welcome the Minister's reference to additional carriages being provided in the  public capital programme. We lost a service recently arising out of some of the unfortunate rail crashes we have had, and I hope to God we do not have any more. Because of the loss of some of our rolling stock arising from those crashes existing stock from the south-east region particularly had to be redeployed. It was done in agreement with the trade unions, as is only right and proper. I hope that in the capital programme for the coming year the new carriages which will be manufactured and rolling will be of an acceptable standard and that necessary facilities will be available for people in the carriages. It has been indicated here that we will have 15 new catering cars, and I hope that the service from the south of the country to Dublin will have a catering car on each of its trains. It is very important that people will use the service because they have the facilities of comfort, some refreshment and a bit of food. Some people have their breakfast on the train.
I think CIE learned a lesson recently, because their offer of special package transport from various routes throughout the country to Dublin were an outstanding success. That kind of foresight should be used at particular times of the year, not just at Christmas-time but when interesting events are taking place in Dublin. If the cost of rail travel from the southern part of the country was comparable to that of other means I am sure people would use the railway for safety and for comfort. I would not like to think that CIE were suddenly in the business of ensuring that all the shoppers from the country came to Dublin or to Northern Ireland to do all their shopping. The service should not be used for that purpose, but it should be used to stimulate the widespread acceptance of CIE as an effective means of transport from one side of the country to the other. For that reason the existing infrastructure throughout the country and into the west of Ireland should be maintained to make sure that not just Dublin is serviced by the bus service or the train service, but that the whole country is serviced adequately and correctly, and that we make use of the existing facilities of the rail lines that are there in good condition and  are accessible to many important towns and villages. For those reasons that service should be maintained.
I compliment the Minister on responding in such a way to the motion. I will not repeat some of the statistics he has used, but they make very interesting reading. All of us who have an interest in the service provided by CIE, recognising that they have a social responsibility specifically written in by the Government, will ensure that that social facility is delivered. I have no doubt that the workforce engaged in CIE will answer the challenge of ensuring that the commercial aspect of the service is competitive with other aspects of the service that can be and is being provided by private hauliers and other people involved, not so much in competition, but in trying to ensure that there is a good and decent service to industries and shops in the country who need stock replacement which now is being done to a large extent by road. This is a tragedy in view of the fact that the same goods could be safely and more cheaply delivered to the towns and villages. For that reason I am pleased about the above-the-line subvention for the board and I hope the board will meet a challenge that is laid down to them by the Government. We on this side of the House — the Labour Party particularly — will be watching any attempt at implementation of the McKinsey Report unless the fullest consultations take place and the implication the report in toto are recognised by the people and by those concerned in the future of CIE.
Mr. Lynch: I agree with the Minister when he says that nearly everybody in this country has something to say about CIE, either good or bad, and in my very short contribution I feel I should say something good about them.
Most people will remember the numerous bus strikes we have had in recent years. With a new initiative and, perhaps, taking a lesson from the latest Government move in establishing An Post, a proper public relations exercise could be built up among the workers and the management of CIE in conjunction with the unions at least to arbitrate in a broader  manner and avoid such strikes. If that appeal goes out from the House we will have done part of a good day's work.
Very few people realise that CIE give a service that is vital to this part of the country, and they give the service in rural Ireland where many people would have no link whatsoever with their local town or shopping area or the schools were it not for CIE, and during this debate and discussion we must keep that thought to the forefront at all times.
CIE were established to serve the needs of the people by way of transport, commercial as well as civilian, and we hope they will act as a commercial enterprise and be as near as possible to self-sufficient. Unfortunately, history tells us that the huge deficit that has accrued year after year has been a cause of concern to every Government over the years. I hope that the new approach and the measures taken will halt the excessive demands that are being placed on the Government and the taxpayers. At the same time I hope that, whatever measures are taken, we do not leave any part of rural Ireland without the service that at least exists already. I am sure many of the speakers here today will bring to the notice of the Minister that areas that should have a service are still without a service. I certainly will agree with Senator Ferris that people who have free transport passes cannot avail of the service that is offered.
In my area there is a bus link from the town of Oldcastle to the town of Kells, or Ceanannus Mór. That bus leaves Oldcastle and heads off down into County Cavan via Virginia up the main Cavan-Dublin road to Kells, yet the people living in the north Meath area at Ballinlough and the Crossakiel area — old age pensioners who have passes — cannot avail of the service. Perhaps CIE — this could be levelled as a criticism — were somewhat dictatorial in their approach and in their replies to references and requests made by Meath County Council to have this bus service routed from Oldcastle through County Meath via Ballinlough to Kells, whereas the present system goes through Virginia and there is a link there with Cavan and Dublin. There is a duplication of service there.
 I agree that the number of people using the bus in the remote area might not be conducive to profit. When the railway lines were in operation decisions were taken by Governments to curtail this service in the interests of the economy. I hope we will learn a lesson from the past. Oldcastle was a terminal to which all the goods coming from Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda and so on and intended for the whole of east Cavan were delivered.
Despite protests, requests, threats and demands from the county council and the local elected members, that railway line and the same time the railway line going through the town of Clones were closed. Most people and most Members here know that Clones has since then become almost a dead town. With about 30 lorries serving that Cavan area you can imagine the amount of employment that was lost in a small town like Oldcastle. There was no hope of recovery, because the railway lines were lifted and the sleepers were sold off. Yet, while we were closing railway lines, continental Europe were strengthening and enlarging their railway networks. Belgium, as a typical example, with a similar population certainly is train conscious. Anyone who has travelled on the Continent will know that the trains there are used extensively. A great effect in this country of the closure of the railway lines was the on-loading of commercial traffic to the public roads that were neither built for this traffic nor fit to carry it when the Government and the county councils had not the finances available to bring the roads up to a proper standard. We have suffered from that ever since. If we had held on to our railway lines at that time people, or at least the commercial enterprises, would be only too willing to use them. If people had looked ahead properly they would have seen a future for the railway because we were in the process of establishing advance factories in rural areas. Marts and various enterprises were being set up which would have made railway lines a more profitable and viable enterprise.
At the same time CIE down the years had a monopoly on road haulage, and many private hauliers were not just  restricted, but put out of business because of the restrictions placed on them to support CIE. How long can this State go on subventing or subsidising a State company such as CIE? That is a question that many people ask. What limitations or restrictions are placed on any Government in regard to a company which is expected to give a service and yet be a viable commercial enterprise? These questions must be teased out here and in the management of CIE. In the past under the GNR system there was wastage, let us be honest about it, and whether that is prevalent in CIE today I am not sure.
A strange thing I would like to bring to the Minister's notice is that one area where CIE make money is in sub-contracting the school bus service to private enterprise. That is the information I got some two years ago when the Department of Education were assessing the school bus service and were hoping at that stage to bring some changes into that service. I do not think that that report was ever published, but I am reliably informed that CIE made money in that sub-contracting.
I was critical of CIE recently. It was not in the best interests of the company or, indeed, the country when CIE announced the cheap bus service to cross-Border travellers who are spending their social welfare allowances across the Border. I am all for free trade and cooperation but, as I said before — I hope I am not misunderstood again — at a time of depression when our business people need the full support of the community it was in very bad taste of CIE to run a cheap bus service across the Border for people to spend their money, much of it social welfare allowances. I wish the Minister and CIE well. I hope that with new initiative CIE will realise their full potential in the years ahead.
An Cathaoirleach: An agreement was made between Senators Cregan and Kirwan. It is Senator Cregan's turn but if  Senator McDonald insists I will have to call him. Senator Cregan's name is at the top of the list. Senator Kirwan wants to get away and he asked Senator Cregan to give way. However, if Senator McDonald offers I will have to call him. If not and Senator Cregan offers I will call him. That is exactly what is going on. If there is agreement between Senator McDonald and Senator Cregan I will call Senator Kirwan. Senator Kirwan has to go away.
Mr. Kirwan: That is true. The Minister referred to the agreement on a general debate on CIE and this is entirely appropriate because it broadens the extent and scope of the discussion beyond the narrow parameters of the fiscal policies designed to keep CIE as a viable operation. Having listened to the contributions today, as one of those retired railway men referred to by Senator Ferris, it occurs to me that, perhaps, we need to set this debate in context and, even if it is in encapsulated form, deal a little with the history of the development of transport in this young State of ours. I am not a devotee of history but I am told that John F. Kennedy once said that one cannot plan for one's future unless one has regard for one's past. Napoleon was a little more cynical when he observed that the only value in history was that it taught one not to make the same mistakes twice. I am beginning to have doubts about the formation of transport policy in this little State of ours, having listened to the Minister's speech.
When this State was founded we had a plethora of railway companies. I am not sure how many but it was in double digits. We had a plethora of road passenger operators who successfully raced each other to bus stops without the cover of statutory insurance in order to get passengers and produce a position in which they could claim they were viable. I mention this for the benefit of Senator Hillery who has apparently of late espoused the cause of privatisation. The lesson of history is directed at him. We have had this privatisation which led Seán Lemass — he handled Transport merely as a sideline; we had not got a Minister of Transport but a Minister for Industry and Commerce  with Transport as an essential element of it — to decide that there was a necessity because all of the railway companies were now in the red having soaked off every conceivable element of profit to change the position. Those of us who are old enough — I do not profess to be one of them — know about the GSR share scandal. The late Seán Lemass decided that we would have at least a manageable number of railway companies. In the mid-forties he reduced the number of railway companies to the Great Southern, the Great Midland and Western and the Great Northern. They were the three major companies and there was a smaller company, the Dublin South Eastern.
Towards the fifties, CIE was established. CIE was unique in many respects because it was representative of all the modes of transport. It represented the rail element of transport, the road passenger element and the road freight element. Indeed, it even managed the inland navigation system — for what it was worth — in the State, our canal system. It even managed ferry services. As a sideline or, perhaps, as an escape from the normal tedium of transport operations it managed even a few hotels of a rather luxurious type. When it was established it employed more than 20,000 people and was managed by a board which within the concept of democratic Government was charged with certain responsibilities. It attempted to discharge those responsibilities against the background of a relatively small deficit arrangement — I believe it was in the region of £1 million.
CIE is a service industry with a massive public interface and everybody demands that the type of service it should produce should be an optimum service. I have listened patiently to the many observations about the industrial unrest in CIE. When some Senators leave their homes at six in the morning — I would say that this is a rare occasion — to catch a bus, does it ever occur to them that the driver had to get up at five o'clock in the morning? When a person leaves a cinema or hotel at night to catch the last bus home at 11.30, does it ever occur to that person that the driver of the bus will not get  home until one or two in the morning? It is a combination of these round-the-clock working factors which produce the dynamism of the transport worker which is well known throughout the world. It is why dockers are known as militant trade unionists. It is the reason why truckers have a reputation for being tough in the negotiation process. In general, they stand as an exemplar of transport workers. They have a characteristic and a nature not shared by other groups of workers because of their complete 12-24 hour dial face working.
The increase in subvention demanded by CIE to keep going is a result of a combination of factors over which it had no control, such as inflation and the price of oil, which is its very life blood. In the mid-seventies that price rocketed sky high. Everybody was caught short on that one. However, in addition to this CIE had to discharge their functions and certain duties in respect of social factors. They had to provide transport services where the privateer, the buccaneer, because of the profit motive was not prepared to enter the field. We heard most of the Senators talk about it today. As a result of this subvention there was increasing Government pressure, from successive Governments, to reduce it. The mechanism used by successive Governments was our civil service friends, who from behind that magical cloak of anonymity which they have managed to weave since the State was formed were able to tell people how all the semi-State industries should be run without having to go out into the market place to demonstrate whether they could do it themselves or not. That has not changed very much to date.
What is missed in all of the comments, particularly those comments about the staff of CIE, is that in the mid-fifties the first major productivity agreement ever recorded in the State was negotiated with CIE peacefully and without a dispute. Its whole system of rail traction was changed quietly and without notice. CIE moved from steam to diesel with a consequent loss of employment — steam engines were manned by two men as against the diesel which is manned by one — without  comment. This was done quietly and nobody rushed to the media or stood up in the halls of old Ivy or in the legislative assemblies to compliment CIE on that singular and, in historic terms, remarkable achievement to which the trade unions made more than a major contribution.
The whole situation in respect of CIE has been aggravated by the fact that when they cease to provide the type of operation they are supposed to provide maximum public attention is focussed on them. It is aggravated when Ministerial statements with a flair for the picturesque phrase and with such observations as CIE being a millstone around the nation's neck are issued. That does not help. I understand the Minister admitted that that did not help. I would like to point out for the benefit of all in the context of industrial relations in CIE that in 1975 the staff in CIE was reduced by 1,216 people. In 1976 the staff number was 17,482 which represented a 2,500 reduction, or 12½ per cent, in staff levels over a period of 18 months. In 1977 the staff levels in CIE stood at 16,500, a reduction of 3,500 or 17½ per cent in the labour force over a period of three years. In 1978 — these are the most recent available figures — the staff level was 16,000, a reduction of 4,000 people or 20 per cent over a period of four years. The IDA, and all the employment generating agencies, will labour long and hard to create the number of jobs that have been lost in CIE as a result of the constant pressure being exercised upon them by all quarters mentioned to date. The squeeze is still on because there were numerous references in the Minister's speech to that continued squeeze. The Minister said that hopefully, the financial measures which are now in train will not involve any undesirable elements such as loss of jobs. This was something that he, the Government, or any Member of this House would not welcome.
That is a remarkable observation to make against the backdrop of the acceptance of the measures which have been consistent throughout CIE since 1975 and which resulted in a loss of jobs of the dimension of 4,000 people.
 The Minister went on to say that now that the Government have taken the necessary steps to require CIE to operate on a more commercial basis we should more quickly see the results and the damage of interruptions to transport services. It appears that when there is a major problem nowadays it is not so much that one seeks for a solution to that problem but one redefines it and puts it forward as a reason for not doing anything. Industrial relations are not the cause of the collapse, or the reputed collapse, of CIE.
Over 1,500,000 people have been killed on the roads in the EEC in the last five years. Yet we have suggestions abroad that people over whom we can exercise no control should be permitted to operate on a private basis in the areas of transport covered by CIE where the restrictions on safety are so great that only the best type of service can be provided. We are being told now that the whole concept of State intervention in transport is no longer a viable proposition and that we should reverse the wheels of history and go back to the days when the private operator was the only one who could provide the service, without having regard to the fact that he will only provide the service where the profit exists and will not provide a service where the only need for it is a social one.
I have spent a long time dealing with CIE, albeit on a peripheral basis, and I know that a lot of criticism has been levelled at the management of the company, some of it justified. A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the staff, their penchant and alleged capacity to stop work from time to time. Some of that is acceptable. Somewhere along the line there has to be a realisation that private enterprise will not provide the type of transport network we desire and has been talked about here today. That is clearly evident right across the world. Almost every airline is State owned and those that are not in that bastion of capitalist endeavour in the United States are subvented to an enormous degree. Most of the shipping companies have disappeared. Those that exist in any dimension and operate on any of the oceans of the world in any strength are State owned.  All the railway companies operating are State owned. To my knowledge the only private railway is in Bavaria. There is some peculiar historical quirk as to why that continues to exist in a nation that accepts completely the concept of the obligation of the State to provide employment.
It has been said that the McKinsey Report might hold the key to this problem without regard to the fact that that same company produced a report, in contradictory terms, for a previous Minister for Transport. It is because of the parameters set by the people paying for the report that consultants will produce anything one pays for. I should like to echo Senator Ferris's observation. There is a pledge from a substantial element in the Government of opposition in whole or part to any implementation of the McKinsey Report. There may not be such an open pledge from the other side of the House but, certainly, overtures made over a considerable period produced an awareness by that side that McKinsey was not the answer. Certain assurances were given and these assurances will have to be carried out. They will have to be matched. They will have to be shown to be unequivocal assurances against the backdrop that the contribution made by the CIE staff since the mid-seventies in terms of staff reduction has been enormous and is sufficient at this point.
Some years ago an investigation was carried out into the structures of railways in the United Kingdom. It became known as the Guillibaud Report and Sir Hugh Cameron, of rather dubious notoriety in terms of our national perspective, said that if the nation willed into existence a railway company — I am going to juggle his words around and say, if the nation willed into existence a national transport company — then it had an obligation to provide the wherewithal to maintain it. That, in simple terms, is a euphemism for a more modern expression, if one wants a national transport system one has got to put one's money where one's mouth is.
Mrs. McGuinness: I am following quite  an impassioned plea on behalf of CIE by Senator Kirwan. I see the point of a great deal of what he is saying but the trouble is that a lot of it, to the ordinary consumer of CIE, seems very different from what we actually experience. Undoubtedly what Senator Kirwan is saying is true, that CIE is an organisation which is supposed to provide a service. It is a service industry and it has an enormous interface with consumers. The trouble is that the consumers who face CIE might not feel quite so idealistic about it as he does. In principle I can understand perfectly well what he is saying, but in practice the ordinary person who uses CIE will have his or her own horror story. My predecessor as Senator for Dublin University, Dr. Conor Cruise-O'Brien, had his personal horror story in The Irish Times this morning. My particular irritation occurred when I went to meet somebody off the train from Belfast at Connolly Station on Saturday night last. I telephone CIE before I went to ask what time the train was coming in at and was told it would arrive at 8 o'clock. When I arrived I discovered it was delayed for 45 minutes, a fact which should have been well known at the time I rang. There was no bar or coffee room open. No newspaper stall of any description exists in Connolly Station and even the sweet shop was closed. It was not a 24-hour shift, it was only 8 o'clock in the evening. No information was given as to why the train was delayed and it was only after a great deal of questioning that I discovered it was because of a derailment in Drogheda. Surely it would cost virtually nothing to tell the unfortunates standing in a cold station why this delay had occurred, as they would do perhaps in Aer Lingus on a plane delay or whatever. Just to give that piece of information would at least let people know that it was not out of perversity that the train was delayed. The station itself was absolutely filthy. I met a friend who was waiting for the train also, and she suggested to me that they could have filled in their time profitably by offering us a pair of brushes. We could have gone around and swept the place up and that would at least have made it clean if nothing else.
 Those of us who live in Dublin deal to some extent in the Dublin bus services. There is the constant business of being decanted from one bus to another. I live in the Blackrock area which is served by the somewhat mythical 6A bus. My children are constantly being unloaded in Blackrock and told the bus is not going any further, and they have to get another bus to get into town, although the service on the timetable is supposed to go into the centre of the city.
We all remember the decisions in the past which now appear to have been so foolish. Senator Ferris mentioned the West Clare railway. As the child of a Clare father I too can remember the West Clare railway. Obviously, at the time it was losing money but, perhaps, an even more obvious instance was the closing of the Harcourt Street line which we now all bitterly regret. We wish it was available now to serve so well. Every time I drive through the Leopardstown Industrial Estate I can see the remains of the Harcourt Street line and consider how useful it would have been for freight and passengers in that area.
Perhaps the most dreadful and frightening indictment of the way CIE is run was the evidence given under cross-examination at the abortive Cherryville disaster inquiry which was stopped when the unfortunate driver was arrested and charged. Indeed, on reading the evidence one might well have felt that, perhaps, the management of CIE would have been the correct people to arrest and charge rather than the driver of the train. It appeared on cross-examination at that inquiry that, first of all, nobody appeared to know what amount of fuel was in any engine at any time, so that one could not be sure that any engine would not run out of fuel when it was in the middle of a journey. Secondly, it appeared that all sorts of returns about mileages were used to compile statistics in the central offices of CIE which were totally unreliable and useless as statistics but, nevertheless, were carefully compiled. Worst of all, perhaps, was that it appeared that the train involved in the accident had been  left for a very large number of hours in Mallow station with the engine running because it appeared that no one in Mallow station had the authority to turn off a train engine. To any one of us who drive the idea of leaving one's car sitting for a large number of hours consuming fuel and running it because one does not have the authority to turn off the engine seems incredible. However, this appears to be part of the type of management that CIE goes in for.
On the information line it is very difficult to find out anything about what is going to happen to any train one is going to meet or travel on. I have discovered, because of the troubles of the Belfast train — I have friends and relations continually going up and down from Belfast — that one's best system is to telephone the station master in Dundalk who is invariably helpful. He will tell a caller if there is a bomb on the line or any sort of delay. There is no way one will find out in Connolly Station what has happened.
I say all this with a certain amount of bitterness because I am speaking on behalf of many people who use CIE services. There is no use in standing up here and saying that we believe in a national transport system, and that there should be a service to the public or that it should or should not pay if we are not prepared to face up to the situation that the ordinary person in the street finds CIE incredibly difficult to deal with. The ordinary child in the street refers to CIE as “cycling is easier”, rather than Córas Iompair Éireann. We must face up to this if we are going to deal with CIE. Perhaps our problem is not the sort of details that have emerged from this but the fact that over the years we have had a lack of real policy by successive Governments. I welcome some signs at least in the speech of the Minister that there is some idea that the Government should embark on a policy with regard to the services to be provided by CIE, in particular an actual distinction between services that can be run profitably and services to be provided as a social service for the country. With due respect to Senator Kirwan I do not think it is necessarily true that one organisation—whether it is a State or a  private organisation, seems to be rather irrelevant in this context—need deal with city buses, country trains or freight services. With regard to freight services a vast degree of flexibility is needed. Is the best way of dealing with this through a central management? Even when one accepts that the system should be provided by the State because the community needs this service, should it all be run from one centre? Should it be all one system? Is this the right idea? It may have been the right idea when Seán Lemass decided to arrange that but it may not be the right idea now. Have we looked at it properly?
Many other Senators have mentioned the distinction between giving a social service and seeking profitability, but we have over the years fallen between those two stools. We have kept wringing our hands and saying that CIE's deficit is too big, they must seek profitability and so on but, at the same time, we have not faced up to the fact that we require them. Very often in our representations to CIE we require the company to provide services that cannot be profitable under any circumstances.
With reference to the number of jobs in CIE, are we running CIE to create employment and maintain employment or are we trying to run an efficient organisation? There is a lot to be said on both sides, but we need to make up our minds and look at it in a realistic way. On these criteria we must face decisions with regard to subventions to CIE and so on. Senator Kirwan referred to the fact that there was a major changeover in the train system from steam driven trains which required two men working the engine to diesel trains which were driven by one man, but for years we have had the controversy in Dublin about whether we should have bus conductors or have one-man buses. There seems to be no end to this one way or another. The question is, is it better for us to keep bus conductors in employment or is it better to pay them social welfare benefits because they are out of work? This decision needs to be made. It is not really a management decision for CIE, it is really  a social decision for the Government, I would argue. For CIE, from a management point of view, it would obviously be better, and more profitable, for them to run one-man buses as are run in virtually every city in the world. It is for the Government to decide whether they are prepared to back this idea or whether they would prefer to keep more men in jobs as bus conductors and pay for it through a subvention to CIE or whether they would prefer to put them out of work and pay for them through the social welfare system. They are going to pay for them one way or another.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to the idea of identifying the social content of the operations of CIE which he referred to in his speech. This was referred to also by Senator Fitzsimons in his contribution. We must remember that in the early sixties the late Erskine Childers felt that to give £2 million by way of subvention to CIE in a year was really too much to pay for the social service element of CIE's services. Now we are paying them over £100 million. I would suggest that even in terms of inflation or in terms of the increase in oil prices and so on a multiple of 50 is too much over that period. We may be paying for a social service but are we getting the social service that we are paying for?
There are obviously some signs of hope of moving forward in CIE at the moment. The Minister referred to the change over in the buses and in particular to the electrification of the Dublin commuter line. This seems to be creating a kind of climate of hope around CIE. It is very noticeable in areas such as Blackrock where there is a boom in office and commercial building which is probably based on the idea that with the improvement in the rail service it would be easy for people to come and go to areas that are serviced by the railway.
It is very unfortunate, from the point of view of national and city transport here, that we miss out in providing an underground railway service at a time when this could be done in a commercially viable way. It has now reached the pitch when it is so expensive to provide  it that it is probably out of the question for Government finance, and certainly out of the question for CIE finance, to provide such a service. For anyone who has travelled in various cities in the world, it is obvious that this kind of service is an enormous breakthrough for getting away from the traffic problems that are caused by too many cars in too small a place. But I am afraid this is something we cannot hope for.
I would hope that the electrified line will help to solve this kind of problem for Dublin commuters. I hope also that they will be able to sort out problems which may arise at the various level crossings in Serpentine Avenue, Merrion Gates and so on, that people seem to fear. I saw a cartoon in a magazine recently of a map of the Sandymount area and a stream of cars trying to make their way out through Merrion Gates to the main road and they could not because of the frequency of trains. There must be planning done about this, but it would be a help if it were made a little clearer to the ordinary member of the public what exactly will happen when there will be trains every five minutes and it takes about 30 seconds to open and 30 seconds to close Merrion Gates, which leaves four minutes in between. The problem is bad enough as it is, of people trying to get in and out, but it could be a lot worse.
In spite of these signs of hope, I find it very difficult to believe what the Minister says on page 10 of his speech, that he is hoping for a new positive and aggressive commercial ethos developed within the company — I hope he can do that in some way — that it can all be aggressively commercial, because it has to provide a service, and from the parts that could be commercial, it seems a little difficult to see such a change taking place very quickly.
We had a certain amount of reference in Senator Kirwan's and Senator Ferris' speeches, and the Minister's speech, to industrial disputes in CIE. Senator Kirwan appeared to think that, and maybe with justification, it is because of the long hours that CIE workers have to work, that they have to get up at six o'clock in the morning, that this makes them more  militant. Nevertheless, I cannot help remembering that my milkman has to get up every day far earlier than six o'clock in the morning but there are very few industrial disputes in the distribution of milk. When the Minister says that it is nearly ten times the national average for working days lost by employees in 1983, he is drawing attention to a very real problem in CIE. There is no use in Senator Kirwan saying that they have an alleged capacity to stop work. They have a capacity to stop work as anybody knows who wants to take buses. It is not just an alleged capacity: the buses just stop, and that is it.
I am not saying that is entirely a fault of the unions or the workers by any means. It can also be the fault of the management and the fault of Government policy. However, it is something that will have to be dealt with in a positive manner before anybody develops any trust in CIE as a means of getting them to and from work, for instance. Many of these industrial disputes appear to stem from either restrictive practices or interunion disputes. These are a particularly unfortunate and difficult form of dispute to deal with.
I do not think we can just wipe it away by saying that they are militant because they have to work sometimes from six o'clock in the morning and sometimes until 11 o'clock at night. Many of us have to work at six o'clock in the morning and until 11 o'clock at night or even later at times, over our weekends and so on. There really has to be some sort of approach to this on all sides that will make people feel that CIE are an organisation which will genuinely transport them from place to place without letting down at a moment's notice.
Having read the Minister's speech and heard what has been said, I would say that there is still some hope that we may get some kind of clarity of policy on what we are doing about our national transport system. I seem to remember many years ago trying to get Parliamentary Questions asked which were always ruled out of order, I think by the gentleman who is now our learned Clerk, when I was trying to bring out why did not the management  of CIE all travel to work and back again on the Dublin buses. I tried to ask why were they allowed to use private cars, because if they actually had to be consumers in the transport system they might deal with it in a more realistic fashion.
From the Government to the top and bottom of CIE they have to face the fact that the ordinary person in the street regards CIE as a very poor joke. Certainly in some areas CIE are providing a social service but that social service is not sufficient if we regard it from the point of view of a company providing a social service. If we regard it from the point of view of a company trying to run a service sufficiently, the commercial element is not sufficient either. I hope that the Minister's approach to it will inaugurate a policy in the future that will provide proper guidelines for what we are trying with our national transport system.
Mr. Cregan: Listening to the debate, and reading the Minister's speech, there is no long-term commitment to any transport policy. I cannot really understand how we can emphasise to semi-State bodies that they must be seen to be putting their house in order and yet at the same time the Government are not prepared to say that we should be giving a long-term commitment for a national transport policy between management, unions and Government. Why is it, with all of the money that is being spent and all the arguments that were made as to whether we are doing the right thing, that we are not really setting up some group to promote a particular policy on behalf of the whole country? I cannot understand why we can make the argument that CIE must be making money in comparison to other people in the transport business. I admit that there are areas in which CIE can be seen to be making money. In the Munster area there are some express services which can make money. There are other people in the private sector, in the transport section, who are making a lot of money at particular times of the week. We cannot make comparisons and say that CIE can be compared in this way. Several other Senators did that. We make  the argument that we are giving them approximately £100 million this year, that they employ 16,000 people and that is approximately £66 per head which at the end of the year the taxpayer has to cough up.
Senator McGuinness hit it on the head a little bit when she asked how much is it costing the IDA or anybody in Government to create one job in this country today. It certainly would not be anything near £66 or even anything near £660, or for that matter £6,600. No matter what we do we cannot create work and be productive about it. Whether we like it or not, arguments can be made that there are some areas in CIE that should be questioned. The CIE hotels already have been questioned and have been diversified into other areas. I am not going to come along and try to make an argument that there is some way better or something better, perhaps privatisation for parts of CIE. I have information that in regard to school transport we tried the private sector to come up with something similar to CIE, and I believe it was a complete farce, that it did not work out, that the people who were trying to bring about the privatisation of the school transport in certain counties could not come up with a proper system. In the end it was worked out that it would cost a lot more.
What exactly are we saying or trying to do? Unfortunately this position is being created because there is no long-term policy. There is no long-term agreement between management and unions as to what is really going on. You cannot expect people, irrespective of whom they are, to go on with their work and say that there is no long-term agreement. I understand that there are particular movements in management in certain areas of CIE where they make decisions from week to week. If you were seen to be doing that in any other sector you would not be kept, and that is a fact. There are other areas in CIE which are working quite well.
I have information that in the passenger section in the Cork area management and the unions have a long-term agreement rather than short-term. There have  been areas where we had buses running on peak and semi-peak periods and it has been agreed that there be an elimination of some buses. That is a very good sign, there is nothing wrong with that, and indeed there is need for it. It is ridiculous to have buses running when there is no need to have them running. Why is it that that cannot be seen to be working out generally throughout the country? Why is it that CIE management are not seeking a total national agreement of a long term nature? Why is it that we are going to spend £100 million and yet we say that we do not know what we want CIE to do? We do not. We have not been giving any orders that we want CIE to do this or that, that we want them to go out to Castletownbere or up to Castletownroche or out to Macroom or across to Drumcollagher. The private man will collect passengers on a Friday from Dublin and bring them back up again on a Monday. He makes the money, but CIE must do all the bad runs. We say it is costing us £100 million. Why would it not? We talk about the taxi services. Maybe we should be talking about CIE — why is it CIE cannot be seen to be doing taxi services instead of letting others do it in the peak times?
If we are talking about one transport system, about CIE costing us money, let us be realistic about it. Why do we not say to private carriers: “If you are going to beat CIE we will let you open the field the same as everybody else”. But no, we want CIE to do the bad things and we want everybody else to do the good things. I do not understand it.
I admit that down through the years the people said we must eliminate railways. They were the so-called experts who had no commitment to transport, who had really no interest. They said there was need to eliminate some railways throughout this country. Who said it and who did it? It was the people without commitment at all to transport. You need people who have an interest in transport, who will say at the end of the day what, in the long term, CIE are worth to the State, what it will mean in 30 years, not in two years.
In Cork a railway line ran right along  the outskirts of the whole city and it is gone, it is not there, nothing can run on it. Who is the guy who pulled it up? That was done about 20 years ago, in 1960 or 1962. It was utterly ridiculous. Admittedly, we are to get a road out of one railway line. Such planning has been proven not to be working out. An impression was given by those who made the rules, and the demands, that it all falls back on the person working within the company. There has not been commitment from the people who should have the commitment. When we are picking people to be involved in the transport system we should make sure that they are the right people, irrespective of whom they are. If they have the commitment to make sure that this thing runs right I am satisfied that it will come right, because there will be a long time commitment from everybody involved in CIE. I do not see any reason why we should not be getting it. The way the State is going at present we need long-term commitments from everybody. Agreements lasting for only 15 months will not be sufficient any longer. We are going to have to say to those people, “This is what it is worth, that is what it will be worth in five years, and this is what it will be worth in ten years”, and why not? The Government should be seen to be giving that commitment. We need a proper transport structure, and we do not have it.
The idea of anybody saying that there should not be a railway line running down to the only ferry service that is coming in to the south eastern side of the country is utterly crazy. Why is it that trains can run at only 27 miles an hour on that track? Is there something wrong with the track? Maybe that is the problem. Why do we not come out and say so? Why do we not get the answers from somebody who should be giving us the answers? There is too much cover up in this type of thing.
Unfortunately, the people that we should be asking do not give us the answers. It is only right and proper that the people within CIE should be speaking up more. It is unfortunate that there are groups of CIE workers creating problems, and I am not denying that for a  moment. I am an ex-employee of CIE and I am very proud of it: all belonging to me were in there. There are sectors within CIE that were set up by agreements between Ministers, management and unions. These agreements made it easy to get something in CIE: all you had to do was to go on strike and you would get it. That happened between the late seventies and early eighties. In that time we had Ministers who were quite prepared to hand out anything. I do not want to be political about it but these are the facts. When they wanted something, some groups said: “We will go on strike if we do not get it.” There was commitment from some unions, probably commitment from all unions, but unfortunately there was a dog fight between union membership. It worked, but CIE itself had to pay for it.
It is diabolical to think that we, the people's representatives, created that. Now we should be saying that we want long-term commitments. We are quite prepared to say that we will give these long-term commitments, but in the meantime, if we are going to give them, we need to get them. We will have to recognise that there are particular unions who are quite prepared to say for the good of the workers, “Yes, we recognise long-term commitments”. We must appreciate that if unions are working for the good of the State they must be recognised for that. If they suffer the consequences of falling membership, we must recognise that, too. It is diabolical to think that we have allowed this in CIE.
We always hear about Ulsterbus making money. Ulsterbus do not run on Sundays, they do not run by night and they get national grants. They get a transport system at half the price. How can we compare CIE with the Ulsterbus service? Ulsterbus are making money, we cannot deny that, but unfortunately we cannot compare them with CIE. For instance, in regard to school transport, Ulsterbus will charge so much for each schoolchild and they get a grant of so much from the State. We give nothing. I know CIE recoup so much a year and that CIE are now collecting so much a year for each  child, but not the equivalent of the Ulsterbus subsidy. In other words, we want CIE to ensure that they collect everybody, and be on time at all the different places, but at the same time they get no subsidy only so much at the end of the year and we want that to be reduced.
There are so many fresh air services that CIE will have to provide and do provide throughout the State, but they cannot compete with the licensed private haulier, who will not, for instance, go to Drumcollagher on a Thursday night at 9 o'clock with two passengers. I know what such a man would say to such a suggestion. On the other hand, CIE are giving a cheap service which we have to pay for. It is cheap in comparison to health services or the brucellosis scheme — how many were employed on that, who made the money out of it? Is anybody asking questions in that area?
I do not wish to see anybody losing money and I do not wish to be continuously saying that we must subsidise, but we must be realistic. CIE are providing a service that nobody else is prepared to provide. I understand there are still problems in the passenger services in the Dublin area but I cannot say the same about the Cork area. I will admit that up to two years ago there were constant delays in services in the Cork area. There was a realistic approach made to it and actually more time was needed because of traffic problems. So now they have set out a schedule in which they can say that if a bus is going to take 20 minutes to come, it will come in 20 minutes. Buses in Cork are now on time even though they may not be as frequent. They had a situation when they had approximately eight buses running per hour after 9 o'clock in the morning. Now they are developing a plan through which we would have only one peak period. We have children going to school and people going to work at the same time. Is it possible to say that our transport system is costing us so much, yet we cannot get the schools to open half an hour later so that the buses can bring the people to work first and then bring the children to school? We are not doing this because  the teachers say that they want to start at 9 o'clock. Can we not tell them to start at 9.30 and the children can leave home at 9 o'clock? At present the buses are full, half the workers do not get to work on time and some of the children do not get to school on time. Should we not be looking at this?
There are more involved than CIE. Everybody is involved in creating a better transport system but we are not prepared to do anything about it. The onus is put on CIE and there is no onus on anybody else to say that the schoolchildren could go to school later and come home later. It is utterly crazy that we have buses lying idle from 9 o'clock until a quarter to one when everybody comes home for lunch, including the schoolchildren, and go back at 2 o'clock, all together again, just because we will not change our system. This is costing CIE more money. We must ensure that CIE is going to get better provisions. Local authorities must be seen to do more. I do not see why there should not be more bus lanes. I see no reason why more discussions should not be held with other semi-State bodies regarding whether they can give a better service, or whether CIE can be allowed to open up its PRO system. Unfortunately, they are so conservative they cannot be seen to be saying anything because if they do everybody is prepared to knock them. If we want CIE to make money and to operate efficiently we must allow them to do what they wish. We want them to do everything. There must be several buses on the road on Friday night at 9 o'clock.
Conor Cruise-O'Brien cribbed about the train to Sligo last Friday night. Was he on it on Thursday night, Wednesday night or Tuesday night, when it was empty? That is the argument that must be made. Everybody wants a service at the same time and CIE must provide this service. Will the private man do this? We should be discussing the service they are giving and the numbers of staff working in CIE and the priority they are getting in comparison with other areas. As I have said, we should look at the amount of money that is being spent on health services. How many people avail of this  service and who is making the money from it? There are a certain few who are getting the millions that we are spending in the health services. Let us think of the money spent on the brucellosis scheme and it has not been solved. There was no £16,000 of that money taken in VAT, or there was no extra employment from it. Certain questions must be asked but the priority, in my view, is productive work. I am not saying that there should be two men on a bus which collects 20 passengers, but at the same time we must be realistic. When compared with other areas it is not the worst.
Mr. Ellis: When I look at the motion I begin to wonder will there be a CIE in another ten years. If CIE continue at the rate they are going they will totally out-price themselves with regard to providing any transport for the public. When one sees the massive increases that CIE have been granted in the past few years one wonders what is being done other than to create massive deficits in the amounts of money which they are taking in.
We heard in the Minister's speech about how the Government have managed to curtail Government borrowing for CIE, but if one looks at it, rather than the Government borrowing to fund CIE now it is a fact that CIE are borrowing to fund themselves. This will end up with CIE becoming another organisation that will again have to receive further aid from the State to be rescued.
CIE can look to the future with less hope than they had in the past because privatisation will take away from CIE the vast majority of bulk transport and of bulk passenger carrying. Simply, private transport as far as goods are concerned is now turning out to be much cheaper and gives a much better service to the people who require it. It is sad that a semi-State organisation such as CIE are being forced out of business by private enterprise.
Another big bone of contention as far as the public and CIE are concerned is the number of strikes that occur in CIE at crucial times. CIE always seem to have strikes in the run-up to Christmas and when people are at their most vulnerable.  Is that all the blame of CIE management, or are restrictive practices in CIE causing most of the problems in that organisation?
The service being provided by CIE at railway stations is very poor and when compared with the services provided at railway stations in any other country in Europe, as Senator McGuinness said earlier, we fail very badly. She spoke about not being able to get a cup of tea. The largest railway station in this city on last Saturday night was a typical example of the sort of service CIE are providing throughout the country. The waiting rooms were cold and frosty and there are no facilities at all at the smaller stations. If the service continues in this way the few passengers who still use the service will cease to use it.
In one of today's newspapers we see a dissertation by the right honourable Cruise-O'Brien, a gentleman I have not much faith in, but what he wrote about the Dublin-Sligo line is true. That line and the rolling stock on it are not fit for the transportation of human beings. People from that area, the area where I live, will not except in extreme cases use CIE as a means of conveyance to or from Dublin. They will use private cars. When you study the economics of the situation, £20 worth of petrol will still take one from Leitrim to Dublin and back. That person will have the service of his or her private car to do business in Dublin. If you travel by CIE, you are lucky to get there and back for £20 in rail fares alone.
If CIE are to have a future they will have to examine the services they are providing and intend to provide. Some of the services being provided are being run very badly. The idea of running a 45-seater bus on a route which has an average passenger load of possibly ten or 12 is not good economics. CIE should be examining these rural routes with a small volume of passengers, where a social service has to be provided. They should examine the possibly of providing minibuses for those routes, except during peak holiday periods and so on when they know there will be an increased volume of traffic. It is a waste of public money to  see a 45-seater bus with ten or 12 people at the most at any stage on it. Not alone is it a waste of public money in the provision of that bus in comparison with the cost of providing a mini-bus to give the same service, it is a waste in regard to the amount of fuel being used and also with regard to the manoeuvrability of that vehicle.
When many of the railways were closed down CIE gave commitments to certain parts of the country that they would provide the people with the same facilities by road as they had prior to that. Now we see in the last 12 months many of those services which were to be provided in rural areas have been cut down and in many cases disbanded altogether. I see this happening where I live. There was a rail service at one time from Ballinamore which connected with the Dublin-Sligo line. When that service was closed in 1957 the local people were promised a three times daily bus service to connect with the Dublin-Sligo line. That has now come down to about three services per week, not three per day.
CIE tell us that they are providing for the needs of people in the area. If you want to travel to Dublin by CIE now, you must, first of all, check what day the bus runs on, and then check if it meets the train at all. These are the sort of problems which will lead to a diminishing role for CIE. At a time when they have massive borrowing and massive State subvention we have to look hard at CIE in comparison with privatisation. Rather than providing big buses in rural areas CIE should provide small buses which are suitable for the needs of passengers in these areas.
As I said earlier, freight business has practically been all taken away from CIE, mainly because the people who wish to have goods transported either do it themselves or arrange with contractors and hauliers to do it for them. The reason for this is quite simple, better service. Better service will get customers irrespective of what business one is in.
In regard to the rail service to Sligo, the condition of the carriages on that line is a disgrace to CIE and a disgrace to this nation. It is nothing unusual for these carriages to have rain leaking in on top  of some of the passengers who use the service. Then CIE begin to wonder why people do not use the rail service. It is a simple fact that until people are provided with fast trains and good type carriages they will not use CIE. Let us not be under any illusions about this.
There is also criticism from this part of the country with regard to the rail service provided from Dublin and the time at which the trains leave. If one wants to take a train to Sligo in the evening one must be at Amiens Street not later then 6.30 p.m. If one has a lot of business to do in Dublin, it can be very hard to be at Amiens Street at that time. The introduction of a late night service on this line, even on a limited scale, would prove beneficial as far as finance is concerned. This service could be integrated with a mail or a goods train which would leave at night.
Government policy with regard to CIE and the reduction of the deficit is something that is not to be credited, for the simple reason that CIE deficit has been reduced by reducing the service. If that is to be the situation then there is no need to look to the future, because the CIE services will be ground down bit by bit until such time as you will find that you will have a rail link between Dublin and Cork, one between Dublin and Belfast, possibly one between Dublin and Galway and a branch line on the Dublin-Cork line to Limerick. CIE considered doing away with the Dublin-Sligo line at one stage during 1983.
If the taxpayers are going to subvent CIE they are entitled to get at least a service from them. CIE must be prepared to look at their future, to look at the service they intend to provide, not in 1984, but in 1994 because as far as I can see, CIE policy has been to take each day at a time. If we are to have a proper public transport service there must be a total recognition of the role that has to be played, not alone by CIE but also by private enterprise in the provision of that service.
I am annoyed at CIE policy in regard to the small pensions — this may not be totally relevant to the motion — paid by CIE to people who became redundant in the fifties and sixties and which are totally  inadequate. Many of those people, who may not have found suitable employment since then to allow them to qualify for other benefits, find that on retirement they are being left very short of what they would be entitled to had they been kept on by CIE or by some other organisation of a similar nature. CIE should examine this matter. Everybody is well aware that if you treat people who work for you right, they will in return give of their best.
Reference has been made to private transportation going for the heavy volume of weekend bus trips down the country, which is quite profitable. CIE never looked at this market. They never considered doing it. They had the rolling stock available for this service, namely the school buses which they were finished with at 4 o'clock every Friday. Those buses lay unused from that time until Monday morning. Those buses could have served a purpose, could have helped to create employment and helped to prevent private enterprise from taking away from CIE this lucrative business which was available.
The school transport system as it is operated by CIE is worthy of a long hard look, in view of the fact that many of the vehicles which are on that service are now anything from 12 to 15 years old and are in need of replacement. If many of the CIE vehicles being used at the moment were treated under the MOT system, first as some private vehicles are tested, they would not pass this test. It is common to see buses in this city which are emitting so much exhaust fumes that one would begin to wonder if one was in a gas chamber or in the street. This is another matter which CIE should look into.
CIE should look into the question of providing small buses in Dublin, in view of the provision of the new commuter rail service, to take commuters from their local areas to the stations to connect with those trains.
CIE should provide a regular bus service in Dublin rather than having two buses now and not having a bus for three-quarters of an hour. We know there was union trouble with regard to the use of an intercom system and with regard to the use of radios on buses. It  should be a condition of employment in CIE that every person would be prepared to use these modern devices to provide a better service. CIE should look at the idea of keeping fewer buses in the streets and having a pool of buses available at each bus depot which could be called out to relieve congestion which occurs on some routes in the morning and evening. They should also look at the possibility of providing smaller buses rather than having double-decker buses with 15 to 20 passengers blocking traffic in the city.
The Government action in dumping on to CERT the CIE hotels shows the lack of commitment with regard to CIE's future role in tourism. It should be reconsidered to see what can be done to allow CIE to go for what has become a massive market, namely, package tours which nobody is in a better position to provide than CIE. I hope that in the future CIE will provide a service which will increase the number of customers rather than reducing them and increasing State subvention.
Mr. McDonald: This debate has evoked many interesting contributions. I should like to compliment the Minister on the amount of information he gave the House in opening the debate. However, one is inclined to look with a caustic eye on CIE. Despite what Senator Kirwan says, the workers in CIE are represented by the worst unions in the world, because they do not appear to be able to reach any conclusion without strikes which inflict tremendous hardship on the ordinary working people who use the service daily. They do not seem to have any compassion. They seem to go on strike over very minor points. Nevertheless, from my own experience, I find that CIE employees are very generous and kind. Over the years one notices bus conductors looking after children, taking them across the road. Indeed I recently saw a bus conductor on a provincial bus providing a cement block to assist elderly people getting on the bus. That is a service one does not get in every country.
It is unfair, because of the numerous strikes, to damn the splendid work force  in CIE. For that reason I should like to ask the Minister to consider seriously a change of policy which would promote the concept that road transport operates best in small units. They should have subsidy bodies based on provincial capitals because our road network radiates from our provincial cities and capitals. If there were five or six subsidiary companies, each with its own managing director and small supporting team, with each unit self-contained as a profit centre for marketing and operating purposes, the subsidiaries would be freer and in a better position to act as a service industry, able and willing to meet the local needs and demands. I would like to see the management of those companies with the greatest freedom to provide the services the particular region would need. They should be in general haulage, contract hire, warehousing, distribution, parcels and small freight services, although in many areas the old sundry services that were such a feature of provincial towns over the years seem to have almost disappeared. That kind of service has in the main been taken up by the private sector where one sees express services from Cork to Dublin and the small trucks or vans one meets on the road every day. Some of those small transport companies should not necessarily stick to the status of semi-State. If the opportunity arose they ought to amalgamate with the private sector or expand in whatever way the public will be served best as a commercial venture.
It is a disgrace that such a small percentage of our exports are carried on “Buy Irish” carriers. If one passes by any of the meat processing factories whether in Kildare, Sallins, Rathdowney or Bagenalstown, a high percentage of the huge juggernauts taking the meat from this country are foreign trucks. This is a pity, because it means that we have less independence by virtue of the fact that we depend on foreigners to transport our exports.
The Minister might look at the reason for that. At one stage I believe CIE had two or three of those huge trucks on that market but for some reason I have not seen them recently. Perhaps it is because  the amount of tax and VAT on those trucks may make our operatives less competitive. I understand that the cost of one of those freezer juggernauts is one-third more in the Republic than in Northern Ireland, in the UK or indeed on mainland Europe. This is mainly due to our taxation system. There will have to be a better examination of the reasons why our people cannot compete. If the reason is that they are taxed out of the competition surely the Government have an obligation to go very deeply into it.
The McKinsey Report was mentioned on a number of occasions. I read that document with great interest. The same company had a go at it back in the fifties when the railway line at Ballinamore and a junction between Portlaoise and Kilkenny were closed with the promise of three or four services connecting Kilkenny and Portlaoise. CIE have cut down on the train service and instead of having a bus to meet every train now they have one in the evening from Kilkenny. About three years ago they reduced that service to one. We have an excellent train service from Portlaoise to Dublin, Limerick, Cork and Kerry. From 5 o'clock on we have a train every hour going each way and in the mornings from 7.30 we have a commuter train to Dublin and the southern trains. The bus which served Kilkenny, Ballyragget, Ballinakill, Abbeyleix and on to Portlaoise arrived about ten minutes after the 5 o'clock train went out and the next one was not until six.
We went on a deputation to CIE in Dublin to see if they would run either a train or a bus. We wanted them to go seven minutes earlier to catch the earlier train or else leave it back so that people would not have to wait for three quarters of an hour for the next train. The busmen said: “We do not run the trains, this is a bus company”. They would not entertain a request like that. Where management are concerned one gets the impression that they are there to run the buses and the passengers seem to be a problem they try to deal with now and again with a certain amount of inconvenience. I hope, with the new management in CIE, they will now avail of this opportunity to  mould the great organisation that CIE are, capable of meeting the needs and demands of the public.
I do not accept that CIE are a social service. They are a public company that should be described as a service company. Unless they provide the service the people require I do not see why they should be subsidised to do otherwise. It is a little unfair that when a person pays a few pounds tax on petrol half of that has to go to subsidise a company like CIE and that person cannot get a service from that subsidised company.
Much has been said about school transport. The fleet of school transport buses should be utilised a little more than an hour or an hour and a half each morning and afternoon and remaining idle the rest of the time. There should be some way of using these buses, especially when the company are serviced in the main by express buses which do not stop between the larger towns. The express buses do not stop in villages. A high percentage of the people using that service in rural areas are on free transport for which the Department pay. There must be improvement in this area.
I have great sympathy for the people in CIE, particularly for those in Athlone. They do a fairly good job. They have been criticised very strongly, especially since the school bus charges were introduced last year. Some of the teaching unions organised meetings with parents to protest against the imposition of charges for school transport. In many of the towns some families were paying £3 per week to travel less than half a mile. That is a regular feature in most of the towns in the midlands. That was a far greater charge than the charge imposed on the people who were asked to contribute towards the cost of transportation several miles from rural areas. That must be causing some annoyance to the people who tried to operate the system within CIE. While sometimes their response is slow we must accept that they are involved with the Department of Education. When you have split responsibility decisions are slower.
Perhaps the Minister in his reply might avail of the opportunity to give the House  an indication of what progress the Council of Transport Ministers are making within the EEC to come up with a proper transport policy. As members of the EEC transport should have a much higher rating and should rank higher in our priorities than it has over the last ten years. There is no reason why our exporters and producers should have to pay more than 100 per cent per mile to transport our produce to the market place than any of our competitors in Europe.
The last time I was at a meeting in Luxembourg the cost of my plane ticket was £515 whereas the two Greek members with us at the same meeting came from Rhodes for £320. The difference in freight is greater. We have a Council of Transport Ministers, and during the period I had the honour of being President of the European Commission for Transport a certain amount of momentum was reached. We got certain commitments. I organised meetings of the Council, the Commission and the Parliament and we had hearings on inter-city transport which were very successful, one on shipping and one on air transport. It is important that the Government should pursue a transport policy which would recognise our difficulties in competing with our European partners. We have the two most expensive stretches of water anywhere in the world. The cost of getting to mainland Europe or getting to the UK is much greater than people have to pay anywhere else.
There was a meeting of the Ministers of Transport in early December which did not reach any great conclusions. The Minister might let us know when that meeting was reconvened and if significant progress has been made towards improving the situation with regard to our exports.
People say railways do not pay, but I believe the best way to travel is by railway and, by and large, the service is fairly good. I recall about four years ago going to Galway from Portarlington in a first class carriage which was absolutely filthy, with many beer cans rolling back and forth when the train either accelerated or  put on the brakes. There were Americans travelling on the train who were complaining.
I wrote to the then chairman of CIE, Dr. St. John Devlin and he had the audacity to write back and say that he travelled hundreds of miles a week from Dublin to Cork and the trains were of a very superior quality, as good as you would find anywhere in the world. I am glad he has gone because he had that kind of a closed mind to the problem. I was not particularly worried about the train — I was just going to a meeting in Galway — but I was embarrassed by the fact that there were Americans who were travelling first-class and, obviously, the train had not been cleared out from the expedition it had been on the day before. There were all kinds of dirt in it. In that case it was management who were at fault. There must have been some manager paid to see that the train was properly cleaned out or washed down, which the chairman said in his letter happened every night. It is not the people who wield the mops and buckets I would blame, it is the supervisors and over them the managers, who are being even better paid, to see that the work is done. Until CIE get after the people who are being paid to see that the work is done and make them do something for their wages, the service will not improve.
We have in CIE a tremendous network. It is much maligned. From my experience I find them a very fine body of public servants. We have in Portlaoise in the Knockmay works a couple of hundred CIE workers who provide continuous track to make rail travel more comfortable on the permanent way. In the main the quality of workmanship is very high in CIE. It is important that the jobs in CIE should continue. Perhaps it would be possible to mould this great giant that we have more economically to meet the demands of the present time and the demands of the travelling public. That can be done with a certain amount of goodwill. My hope is that the company will be able to maintain their present work force and improve on the service that they are offering to the public at the present time.
Professor Dooge: In accordance with what we discussed earlier on the Order of Business, it is proposed to adjourn now until 7 o'clock and take Private Members' Business from 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. and resume this debate tomorrow after the passing of the Housing Bill.
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